Preparing Your Library for the 2024 Eclipse
The upcoming solar eclipse on Monday, April 8, 2024, offers a unique opportunity for public libraries to serve as a hub in their community. In preparation, there are several steps your library should take to maximize learning and engagement with patrons.
Time to Check the Map – How Close is Your Library on the Path to Totality?
First things first, is your library sitting in the VIP section for this celestial spectacle? The strip of a total eclipse is a 120-mile-wide band stretching from Maine to Texas. Even if you are not in the direct path, “all 48 contiguous states in the U.S. will experience a partial solar eclipse,” according to NASA.
You can check your location using this timeanddate.com eclipse map.
Eclipse coverage on April 8th, 2024
Blast from the Past: The Eclipse We’ll Never Forget
One thing was clear from the last solar eclipse: it generates a lot of engagement and traffic. Our patron service call support center reported an exponential increase in calls and chats. Patrons for our client libraries asked about times, eye protection, and other learning experiences surrounding the eclipse.
More traffic, more staffing
Inquiries started to pick up as much as a month out from the eclipse date and peaked the morning of the event. People were looking for glasses, projectors, and general information and safety tips. The most inquiries came from areas closest the eclipse’s path, but every patron service client saw a spike in patron communication. Check out the graph below, you can see the spike in engagement with client libraries across the country. Interactions increased steadily in the run-up to the eclipse, is your library prepared for such a surge?
So, what’s the takeaway? One of the key lessons was the importance of early planning and preparation. Laying the groundwork of preparing for increased traffic and having accurate information begins now.
Get Ahead of the Game: Pre-Eclipse Prep
Start by planning events or programming related to the eclipse. This might include lectures on astronomy, DIY solar viewer workshops, or storytelling sessions centered around celestial myths and legends. You can then seek funding and supplies in order to facilitate these activities. Try looking for sponsors within your community; local businesses often appreciate opportunities to support public events and to be associated with their local community and public library.
A resource to consider is www.starnetlibraries.org. This platform allows libraries to register for eclipse glasses and offers lots of ideas for eclipse-related activities.
Countdown to Eclipse: The Patron Service Plan
As the eclipse day approaches, prepare a total patron service plan. Make sure to market your events and programming effectively. Engagement platforms like MessageBee help you reach your audience and build excitement with phone, SMS, and email communications.
Home base for your patrons
Your library’s website will be a primary source of information. Ensure that it’s updated regularly and contains clear information about your eclipse events to reduce inquiries and call volumes. Include FAQs addressing common questions about the eclipse and your library’s specific plans.
Arm your staff with the right tools
Finally, ensure your team is available for patron support during the eclipse. This event may generate an influx of calls and chats, so using technology to support your services will be vital. Consider implementing a phone tree or automated technology to communicate and direct calls efficiently, adding chat support for real-time inquiries online, and adopting two-way SMS to provide prompt assistance.
Your library can play a significant role in making the 2024 solar eclipse a memorable event for your community. With early planning, effective communication, and a commitment to serving your patrons, you can ensure a successful and enlightening eclipse day.